In Britain, “trade union pilgrims” used to be a common sight in workplaces. Pilgrims were paid to do nothing but proselytize on behalf of trade unions. In other words, companies (and sometimes the taxpayer) would pay for employees who actually hindered the economic life of their organizations.
There’s a modern-day equivalent of the trade union pilgrim, commonly found in Silicon Valley. It’s the diversity advocate.
Much like the trade union pilgrim, the diversity advocate was born of left-wing politics. And much like the trade union pilgrim, the diversity advocate does little more than harm the companies they work for – or at least their public image.
TechCrunch recently published a feature on Gloria Kimbwala, who runs Code Camp, a girls-only, 5-day training course that appears to serve little purpose other than encourage the anti-meritocratic idea that the genitals or skin colour of a coder matters more than their talent. The program is run by Square, the online payments company.
Naturally, the diversity industry attracts (and, indeed, incentivizes) a hyper-awareness of race and gender. Kimbwala herself is a classic example:
“Because I’m an engineer, I like to look at problems and things I see are problems,” Kimbwala told me. “My path through technology and through computer science — I was always very aware I was the only minority and the only woman in all of my classes.
The value of encouraging people to see themselves as members of a race or a gender rather than individuals has, of course, yet to be demonstrated. The relevance to good coding certainly isn’t straightforwardly apparent. However, according to Kimbwala, there is at least one problem that can be solved by diversity workshops: imposter syndrome.
As TechCrunch explains:
As part of Code Camp, Kimbwala hosted an hour-long imposter syndrome workshop. Imposter syndrome, an idea first explored by Dr. Pauline Clance in the 1980s, is the feeling that you’re not as qualified for the work as people may think you are, and will be found out as a fraud.
In other words, imposter syndrome refers to simple lack of confidence – a problem that affects both genders. Indeed, almost everyone (other than perhaps psychopaths) will suffer lack of confidence at some point, especially in the high-talent world of Silicon Valley.
Nonetheless, Kimbwala has solutions:
Next, everyone, including myself, dove into the workshop’s first exercise. Part one asked each of us to write down three things we value, write a sentence about why one of those values are important to us, and what the last topic was that someone asked us for advice on. That last part is especially important because if someone asks you for advice, Kimbwala explained, they’re essentially telling you that they respect your opinion and find value in it.
This is what Silicon Valley’s diversity industry boils down to: self-affirmation sessions. The same kind that might be provided to the least confident of high school students. If adult employees require this level of coddling to overcome their lack of confidence, one has to wonder why Silicon Valley is spending millions trying to hire them.
Then again, with universities increasingly dedicated to coddling rather than strengthening, it’s perhaps not entirely surprising that young adults enter the workforce with confidence issues.